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University of Michigan School of Information


DS/CSS Seminar Series: Danaja Maldeniya

02/13/2020, 12:00 pm - 01:00 pm
Ehrlicher Room (3100 North Quad)

Herding a Deluge of Good Samaritans: How GitHub Projects Respond to Increased Attention


Collaborative crowdsourcing is a well-established model of work,especially in the case of open source software development. The structure and operation of these virtual and loosely knit teams differ from traditional organizations. As such, little is known about how their behavior may change in response to an increase in external attention. To understand these dynamics, we analyze millions of actions of thousands of contributors in over 1100 open source software projects that topped the GitHub Trending Projects page and thus experienced a large increase in attention, in comparison to a control group of projects identified through propensity score matching. In carrying out our research, we use the lens of organizational change, which considers the challenges teams face during rapid growth and how they adapt their work routines, organizational structure, and management style. We show that trending results in an explosive growth in the effective team size. However, most newcomers make only shallow and transient contributions. In response, the original team transitions towards administrative roles, responding to requests and reviewing work done by newcomers. Projects evolve towards a more distributed coordination model with newcomers becoming more central, albeit in limited ways. Additionally, teams become more modular with subgroups specializing in different aspects of the project. We discuss broader implications for collaborative crowdsourcing teams that face attention shocks.

Speaker bio: 


Danaja Maldeniya is a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan School of Information. He works with his adviser Daniel Romero on information and structural dynamics in complex social, collaborative and other networks. In addition, he has a particular interest in modern data driven city science and the use of data for development (D4D).

Prior to starting at U-M, he was a researcher at LIRNEasia, a policy think tank based in Sri Lanka and operating in the Asia Pacific region. He was involved in the “Big Data for Development” project that seeks to use novel digital data sources such as call detail records (CDR) generated by mobile operators, satellite imagery and data from social media (Foursquare, Twitter) to generated policy insights in the fields of transport, urban development, disaster resilience, infectious disease propagation etc.

He has a bachelor's in computer science and engineering from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka (Class of 2011) and he worked for over two years as a software engineer (2012-2014) at CodeGen International, a leading Sri Lankan software company that develops software for tour operators.